|Subject: LUSA: Cargo plane crashes near
Baucau, killing all six Russian crewmen
31-01-2003 12:11:00. Notícia nº SIR-4612862
East Timor: Cargo plane crashes near Baucau, killing all six Russian crewmen
Dili, Jan. 31 (Lusa) - A Russian-built Ilyushin-76 cargo plane crashed and exploded into fire Friday while attempting to land in heavy fog in the East Timorese city of Baucau, killing all six Russian crewmen, UN officials said.
It was believed to be the worst civil aviation accident ever in East Timor.
Officials said the plane, flying in telecommunications equipment from Macau, crashed at 3:30 p.m. (0730 GMT) about 5 kms from Baucau airport on its third landing attempt.
Witnesses at Baucau airport, 130 kms east of Dili, told Lusa they heard a loud explosion and saw a huge plume of smoke when the plane went down.
By early evening UN rescue workers had recovered five bodies from the wreckage of the four-engine plane, which carried no passengers, contrary to first reports, said an UN official.
An inquiry was ordered into the cause of the crash, apparently provoked by poor visibility due to heavy fog.
The IL-76 was transporting hundreds of thousands of euros worth of equipment, primarily for a GSM cell-phone system, for the country's new telecommunications network, a spokesman for Timor Telecom, a subsidiary of Portugal Telecom, told Lusa.
Lisbon-headquartered Portugal Telecom leads the consortium setting up the new Timorese system.
Despite the setback, Timor Telecom's José Jardim said the company aimed to maintain the March 1 launch date for the network, adding, however, that meeting the timetable depended on the colaboration of equipment suppliers.
A former Portuguese colony, East Timor gained independence last May, after almost three years of UN transition administration, which followed nearly a quarter century of Indonesian occupation.
UN police and peacekeepers remain primarily responsible for the country's security.
UN mission chief Kamalesh Sharma sent his condolences to the Russian ambassador in the Indonesian capital and expressed regrets to East Timorese Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri and Portuguese Ambassador Rui Quartin Santos.
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